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The Slave Prince Chapter 11
The Pact of Brotherhood
Agawe saw Tiyana writhe in pain but he kept howling, “Your father will roll in his grave. This land belongs to all of us – your father promised a portion of this land to me… you greedy son of …”
“Get him out of here,” Ubo ordered. Two men carried Tiyana. “Manteben, get help for Tiyana. Get a mabalian. Agawe, get these men to clean up the damage.” They stayed in the plantation the whole afternoon.
That night at the wooden house, Apô Abet scolded Ayong. “How did you even learn how to shoot a gun?” she shrieked.
Ayong sat silently looking at his feet.
“Innà… Tiyana charged at me when my back was turned. You should be thankful that Ayong did as he did.”
“What is happening to this family? If Siawan hears of these troubles….” Apô Abet said to no one in particular.
“Apô…” Ayong started slowly.
Oh-oh, Agawe thought, not now Ayong… wrong timing!
Apô Abet turned to Ayong who continued, “I… I don’t want to get married….”
Apô sat on the bench weakly, like a heavy rock fell on her. Her head rested on her hand and she groaned, “Ayooong….”
“It is not for you to decide, Ayong!” Ubo snapped.
“I will work in the plantation … you did not have to pay me… just let me stay here…” To Agawe’s surprise, Ayong started to sob. “Don’t send me away… I don’t want to stay in Siawan’s place…” He was crying when he ran out.
Agawe felt for Ayong. Earlier, he was the warrior when he shot Tiyana but now, he’s just a child.
“You have to talk to Ayong, Innà… we have sent word to Siawan and he has accepted. We will not be dishonored…!” Ubo said as he climbed the stairs to his room.
“Agawe…” Apô Abet said softly. She motioned for him to sit down. He sat opposite her in the long table. “I am old. I have taken care of Ayong since he was a baby. All I wanted is for him to have a wife when I leave him.”
“Can Tiyo Ubo take care of him when …. you are…” he could not finish what he wanted to say.
“Agawe… Ubo and Siawan have known each other for a long time and they want to make a deeper bond by marrying off Ayong and Siawan’s daughter. If Ubo’s son was still with us, he would marry Siawan’s daughter.”
Agawe could not control his emotions when Apô Abet mentioned the lost son…. and Apô Abet noticed. “What’s wrong, Agawe?
“I… I am thinking how lucky Ayong is, Apô,” he lied. “Madallay is beautiful so the daughter must be beautiful, too. If I am not al-lang, I could also find a woman to marry…”
“Agawe… do you want to marry?”
“No one will marry a slave, Apô…”
“If you are freed by your master, you will not be al-lang anymore…”
“Tiyo Ubo is my master…” Agawe said with so much anguish because his master could be his father.
“I will talk to Ubo about it…” Apô Abet assured him, then she sighed, “Agawe… will you promise to take care of Ayong when I am gone? Be a brother to him…”
“I will do anything for you and Ayong, Apô… right now, you are the only family I have… but Ayong… he does not want to marry…”
“Shush..shush…let me handle that… go look for Ayong…”
Agawe knew where to find the young boy. And true enough, he was in his hut when he got there. That night, Agawe and Ayong made a pact to help each other and to be each other’s brother.
The Family Estate
In spite of what’s going on around him, Agawe was happy. He decided he was going to stay with his new-found family. He promised his Apô Ugay and Innà Lungkayan that he won’t do anything when he found his parents. Now he thought he found them and it was enough for him. If his parents did not want him, he was content to have found a family in Apô Abet and Ayong.
The following days were harrowing. More and more abaca plants were felled down and the scary thing is that it followed a path to the wooden house. The warning was clear to Ubo. He had to give-in to their demands or the carnage will get to his house and his family.
Maeng pleaded, “Ubo, I know those people will not hesitate to kill us all. Why don’t you talk to them and give them something … I cannot live in fear like this. I fear for my daughter.”
Late that afternoon, a meeting with all of Ubo’s half-brothers and half-sisters without their husbands and wives was held at the wooden house. Manteben was their spokesman.
Agawe and Ayong quietly watched the proceedings. Ubo sat on one side of the long table while the others sat opposite him.
“If not for Maeng, I will never talk to you… but I am a reasonable man, let us see if we can settle this peacefully.”
The others nodded.
“Now, what do you want?”
Manteben cleared his throat. “Ubo, our brothers and sisters want to get their share of our father’s land. They feel that they deserve to till their own land as all of us here are children of our ammà who owned this land.”
Agawe saw Ubo’s jaw tighten before he asked, “Why do you want to till your own land? What will happen to the plantation if we divide that into …” he counted his siblings, “ten – including our living mothers. Do you think you will gain more if you each tend your own small abaca plantation? How will you sell your fiber? The merchants will only buy from me.”
Murmurs became louder as they discussed among themselves. One of the sisters said, “We are going to cut down the abaca and plant other crops.”
“That is a good idea but what are you going to eat while waiting for your crops to grow?” Ubo asked. “Where are you going to get the seedlings to plant? Where will you get the fertilizers and the pesticides? Can you do the plowing yourselves? A carabao costs much, a plow costs much.
They again discussed among themselves. “We still want our share, Ubo,” another sister said.
“Yes, the others agreed… but we have a proposal. Since we cannot till our own land without a carabao, or seedlings… we will sell our share to you so the plantation does not need to be partitioned…”
Ubo took a deep breath before he said, “So, this is about money. Why don’t you just tell me that you want me to pay you for your share of our father’s land!” he hollered.
Agawe now realized that Ubo’s siblings were really stupid and lazy, except perhaps for Manteben who was shrewd.
Manteben said he won’t sell his share. He wanted his own piece of land.
Ubo looked at Manteben intently and Agawe wondered what Ubo was thinking.
Ubo said deliberately, “So after I pay your shares, you are going to leave my land? I can get al-langs to work in the plantation…”
The group was stunned. From the look on their faces, they did not expect that.
Ubo seized the moment of their confusion. “The money you will get from your shares could be enough for you to buy another piece of land in other villages but I doubt if you can build a house or till your land or buy your food… but that is not my concern anymore. Father said I should take care of you all … but since you want to leave… then off you go. Now, tell me how much do you think your share is. I will see if that is reasonable… then I will deduct the amount of damage you did to the plantation…”
Agawe was impressed by how Ubo handled his siblings. They left without getting what they wanted, and they promised to forget their demands, and to stay with Ubo working in the plantation. After all, Ubo had provided for their needs even beyond what they worked for. But Manteben came out with a different deal – Ubo grudgingly agreed to give him his share and he would be on his own.
The Broken Jar
When his siblings left, Ubo told Apô Abet, “I don’t trust Manteben. It seems to me he is the one who wants his share very much and is using the others…”
If Agawe or Ubo thought that was the end of the family crisis, they were wrong. On a particularly hot day, Agawe came to the shed for a drink of water but he walked into a heated argument between Manteben and Nole.
“What do you want? Why are you here? Don’t you have work to do?” Manteben snapped at Agawe.
Agawe was surprised at the hostility. “I just need a drink of water…”
“Get out of here!” Nole charged and pushed Agawe who struggled to steady himself. “Off you go! You are trying to spy on us…”
“Leave him alone, Nole!” Manteben barked, then turned to Agawe, “Go back to work, Agawe.”
Agawe decided to leave the two hot-heads alone. It was not worth fighting with them. He decided he’d be back later for water.
But when he came back, the jar was on the ground broken. Agawe thought something was not right so he scooped some of the water left in the broken jar. True enough, the purple stone turned the water muddy and bubbled over. It was poisoned! But who was the target?
That night, Agawe recounted the day’s events but was careful not to mention about his stone and the poison. Apô Abet said, “Hmm…Ubo, why don’t you take Agawe and give Manteben a surprise visit. I suspect he knows more than he is telling us… ” she spat out the window, “your siblings are being brainwashed by someone… if it is not Manteben, then it’s someone else…”
Read Chapter 12
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